This article reviews recent advances in the elucidation of neurobehavioral endophenotypes associated with drug addiction made possible by the translational neuroimaging techniques magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). Increasingly, these non-invasive imaging approaches have been the catalyst for advancing our understanding of the etiology of drug addiction as a brain disorder involving complex interactions between pre-disposing behavioral traits, environmental influences and neural perturbations arising from the chronic abuse of licit and illicit drugs. In this article we discuss the causal role of trait markers associated with impulsivity and novelty-/sensation-seeking in speeding the development of compulsive drug administration and in facilitating relapse. We also discuss the striking convergence of imaging findings from these behavioural traits and addiction in rats, monkeys and humans with a focus on biomarkers of dopamine neurotransmission, and highlight areas where further research is needed to disambiguate underlying causal mechanisms. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'NIDA 40th Anniversary Issue'.
Keywords: Impulsivity; MRI; PET; Prefrontal cortex; Sensation/novelty-seeking; Striatum; Substance use disorder.
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